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Gardening and More: Succulents are the star of the show that starts at botanical gardens

GET CREATIVE — Mix different varieties of succulents in one container. See more stunning exhibits at the Succulent Show, which starts today, at the Buffalo and Erie County Botanical Gardens. Photo by Connie Oswald Stofko.

BUFFALO — It’s nice to have a little aloe plant on your kitchen windowsill, but there is so much more you can do with succulents than that.

Get great ideas by looking at the amazing exhibits during the Succulent Show to be held from 10 a.m. - 5 p.m. daily, from Saturday, Sept. 7 - Sunday, Oct. 6 at the Botanical Gardens, 2655 South Park Ave. in Buffalo.

Tickets are $9 for adults, $8 for seniors ages 55 and older and students ages 13 and older with identification, $5 for children ages 3-12 and free for Botanical Gardens members and children younger than 3.

Some of the exhibits, such as an entire woman created out of succulents, might be beyond the skills of the average gardener, but there are plenty of ideas that you can borrow and use at home.

I talked with Julie McDonald, gardener at the Botanical Gardens, about some of the designs she and fellow gardener Teresa Mazikowski created, last year.

Perhaps the simplest idea is to mix a variety of succulents in a container. Start with some tall plants, such as sansevieria, also called snake plant or mother-in-law’s tongue. Add shorter plants, then add your smallest plants, even cuttings of a plant, last.

Look for variety. Succulents can be tall, slender and upright; very wide and floppy, like a puppy’s ear; floral-shaped or cascading. They can be shiny or fuzzy. They can come in shades of green, silvery gray and yellow with splashes of red, purple and white.

Another way to display succulents is on a form.

For a mushroom, McDonald and Mazikowski took a wire flower pot and turned it upside down. They took thick plastic netting (the kind you use around a plant, to keep deer and rabbits from eating it) and wired it to the pot. Then they glued preserved moss to the netting. A section of a large cardboard mailing tube formed the stem. The tube was wired to the inside of the basket and covered with moss. You can add hens and chicks or other succulents, as well.

A simple cone shape covered in succulents would look great in the garden and it could make an attractive Christmas decoration as well.

McDonald and Mazikowski used a tomato cage turned upside down. The legs of the cage were wired together a few inches from the top. The legs were splayed enough at the top to form a pocket where a plant could be inserted.

Plastic netting was wired to the cage. Presoaked sphagnum moss was added to the inside edges to hold in the moisture. Don’t use Spanish moss, McDonald said; it won’t last. Sphagnum moss is expensive and heavy, so you don’t want to fill the entire tomato cage with sphagnum moss, she noted. Wire the succulent cuttings in place.

Check out the Succulent Show at the Botanical Gardens, to see what new ideas you can glean, for your own planting.

Connie Oswald Stofko is publisher of Buffalo-NiagaraGardening.com, the online gardening magazine for Western New York. Email Connie@BuffaloNiagaraGardening.com.
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